The Can Do Company

It’s hard to explain how Candoco works. After watching them on Strictly, I think the moment had come where the written word comes up against the image like two colliding tectonic plates. And guess which plate gets sub-ducted under the ocean while the other plate rises up to form a mighty volcano? Oh yeah. The wordy one goes down.

There’s something about watching inclusive dance which is just a spectacle of sight. A powerhouse of visual emotion. The man in the wheelchair. He holds a woman in his arms. The lady with one leg pirouetting across the floor. Her core is steel. The boy with Down’s Syndrome expressing himself with pure grace. The girl with Cerebral Palsy smiling like a cardinal buoy in a stormy sea. They dance around each other with such a sensitive dignity, it can’t really be described. Doh.

So I’ll just describe the bit I know! Ha! Like I was just going to go home early..

The thing is; Delphine dancing with Candoco kind of messes around with my own timeline. That’s what I want to talk about now. Getting stuck in different time dimensions.

We’re in the present time. Going with Delphine on the tube to Alexandra Palace. Piccadilly Line from Osterley to Wood Green. A bus ride later and Delphine sees the dancers perform in the youth company Cando2. She joins in with their workshop afterwards. Simple. But then there’s the time travel. I’m suddenly five years ahead of myself. I’m planning dance university, how Delphine will find student accommodation and go downstairs to the studio to work on her weaker right side. I can go ten years ahead next. Touring and life on the road. How Delphine will stay healthy and look after her periodically sore left knee (a pure heroine of a joint supporting her right side). So I end up being there and not there. In the present and in the future. And, as I watch Delphine dance, I’m in the past too. That three-year old who couldn’t skip around the dance studio but was determined to do it anyway. The way she gripped onto her pink ribbon like it was a lethal weapon.

But I feel better. Writing this makes me realise I’m not the only one who does it. Not the only parent in the world to look ahead, to consider options while they watch their kid just smile without a care in the world. The cares are on us now. And that’s ok. I just don’t want to jinx it.

Back to Candoco’s workshop. There was a teenage boy in a wheelchair who’d never been before. His father stayed close and watched him the whole time. A grinning lady had a speaker tied to her wheelchair. She played music throughout. A dance teacher with one full-length arm was doing push-ups on both arms before the workshop began. A skateboarder-type in a yellow beanie was up on his toes. When the workshop began, he wanted to dance with Delphine but she refused. Delph gravitated to an Asian lady instead with a floaty red top on and a lovely smile. ‘I came today because I saw Candoco on Strictly,’ she told Delphine. ‘I’m disabled too.’ Delph nodded back sagely for her eleven years.

They danced slowly across the room. In groups and in pairs; cat burglars, people finding the space between each other, using the borders of their bodies to dance together. It was both strengthening and a moving delineation of what was fragile. Oh and according to Delphine it was funny. Very funny. She was persuaded by a dancer with an awesome natural afro to briefly leave the girl with the floaty top. They had a sympathetic, synchronous rhythm, speeding up slightly and popping across the room. Delphine stopped giggling then and began to concentrate. She moved to a quite significantly disabled young lady who completely understood what she was doing and what she was going to do. They slowly moved in and out of each others’ bodies. My breath braked in my throat.

All the dancers came together at the finale. They moved in a swarm, across one end of the workshop space and then to the other. As they stretched their arms like rubber, reaching up for the stars, the teacher Toke said, ‘Because that’s all we have. Only now are we truly together.’

The Alexandra Palace onlookers paused at this newly-renovated open space and then carried on with their lives. Amen.








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